Deep Freeze Tackles Most of the Nation

A bitter blast of arctic air ushered in by a quickly moving Alberta clipper has a large part of the nation seeing record-breaking frigid temperatures, including lows in the single digits and wind chills below zero degrees.

A low pressure system from Canada is responsible for the wicked winter weather that will have New Yorkers seeing some of the coldest temperatures since 2004.

Winter Weather Sends Arctic Lows East, SouthPlay

The Empire State is one of nearly three dozen states with cold weather warnings out today, which includes parts of the Northeast, Midwest and the South.

The mercury won't rise above zero in places like Chicago and Minneapolis, Minn. Minneapolis felt like minus-41 degrees this morning with the wind chill, according to "Good Morning America" anchor Sam Champion.

Highs only will hit the single digits in areas like Buffalo, N.Y., and Indianapolis and snow is accompanying the blustery conditions and icy air in the Northeast. Light to moderate snow accumulated during the early morning commute in the New York City area as slick roads and frigid temperatures made for more treacherous travel on the way to work.

But it's not just the northern part of the nation feeling the freeze. By Friday morning, the Gulf Coast states will face a hard freeze that will put temperatures in the 20-degree range for several hours in places like Tulsa, Okla., while the Midwest and Northeast will tackle subzero lows.

Dangerous wind-chill warnings will extend across the mid-to-upper Mississippi Valley and across the Great Lakes as arctic air surges across the Midwest.

Lake-effect snow showers were forecast across the Great Lakes. Snow showers will be accompanied by 10- to 20-mile-per-hour winds and up to 30-mph wind gusts. Strong winds will trigger periods of blowing snow and limited visibility with low wind chills, according to the National Weather Service.

The country's big chill seems to contradict the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2008-2009 winter outlook, which predicted warmer than normal temperatures for much of the central part of the nation for December through February.

But there are parts of the nation that aren't freezing and fighting Jack Frost. The West Coast is seeing some summerlike beach weather.

San Fernando, Calif., clocked 89 degrees for a high and Southern California temperatures will remain thanks to a lingering high pressure system.

The Coldest Place in the Nation

Frigid weather is nothing new to International Falls, Minn., which is the coldest spot in the continental United States. Overnight, the city had temperatures approaching 40 below zero and wind chills near minus 60.

"It's kind of raw. It really cuts your skin," said Zamboni driver Belmer Cole of the weather as he prepared the ice rink for the International Falls High School hockey team.

The colder temperatures make the ice dry and brittle, which makes skating tougher.

"When the ice gets this cold, and the temperature this cold, the puck freezes to the point where if it hits a goal post, sometimes the puck would break into pieces," said International Falls High School hockey coach John Prettyman.

While much of the nation is gritting its teeth with the most recent arctic air blast, the residents of International Falls are used to bitter weather. It's a way of life for them, especially the ice fishermen.

"I'm still standing here. Parts aren't falling off yet. There's really no bad weather, just bad clothes," said ice fisherman Woody Woods.

Part of the preparation for any winter day for residents involves putting on layer upon layer to stay warm. But in this city, it's not just the people that have a hard time keeping warm; the food does too.

For pizza delivery man Rob Fish literally every second counts.

"It's a tough deal when it's this cold, but you gotta do it," he said.

And while International Falls may be the capital of cold, even it has its limits. The city had to cancel part of its annual winter festival called Ice Box Days because this year it's just too frosty.

Cold Weather Dangers

Chilly temperatures are potentially deadly for those without heat. The cold can be more harmful than even the hottest summer days.

"The problem is that cold hurts you much more rapidly and more uniformly. You can put a number of folks in the desert, many of them will do fine," said Wallace Carter, of New York Presbyterian Hospital. "You can take 10 people, put them out in subzero weather and they will all start to have serious side effects and will ultimately die. "

Even people who may seem to be prepared for the weather aren't necessarily safe from the frigid air.

"Most people think that they are well prepared and in fact they're not well prepared. People underestimate how incredibly insidious and violent cold temperature is," Carter said.

Experts said the key to warding off hypothermia is limiting skin's exposure to the cold.

The Bright Side

While much of the nation battles wintry weather, NASA has released a report saying 2008 was the coolest year since 2000.

"It's always a little bit difficult to talk about global warming when you're gonna have the coldest day of the year. But you have to realize that weather isn't abolished just because there's a long-term trend in the climate," said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist for NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.